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AGENCY, ORIENTATION AND POSITION OF LABOUR IN THE ETHIOPIAN POLITICAL ECONOMY: STRIKES, STRUGGLES AND WAGES, 1960-2010 [Abstract ID: 0303-04]
While development projects have been espoused by all Ethiopian governments over the last half-century and more, the role and position of labour within this project has been the subject of sharp revisions. In recent times, both the position of labour and the agency of workers in shaping the developmental project has been reduced to that of a mere factor of production. In academia too, most scholarship on labour has focused on productivity levels. By revisiting the past orientation and position of Ethiopian labour, this paper aims to reframe a discussion on the agency of workers in shaping the political economy and its own position within it. The paper aims to explore the relationship between the agency of Ethiopian wage workers – exercised through the labour movement, and conditioned by its strategic orientation – and the shifting position of labour within the Ethiopian political economy over the past half-century. Orientation is measured by taking stock of different historic levels of militancy expressed in strike action and unrest, and the position of labour is measured in the differing levels of output retained by labour – both in terms of wages and the wage share of total output. The paper builds on original research from recently completed PhD research, which includes sources from a number of Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian archives, such as those of CETU, MoLSA, ICFTU, ILO, the Tom Killion papers, and more. It also includes archival data from a couple of Ethiopian workplaces, and newly compiled time-series of deflated manufacturing wages according to CSA data.